A sample of recently offered honors courses for Second- and Third-year Scholars
Hon 340 Colloquium in the Humanities: The Middle Landscape: Coming to Terms with the Land
The Middle Landscape is a romantic ideal often associated with Thomas Jefferson. The phrase describes a place, a landscape that is neither a howling wilderness, nor an industrialized metropolis, but one rather where humanity best achieves its potential and where humankind cultivates a harmonious relationship with nature. In recent years there has been a revival of this 18th century notion, but this time more as a practical alternative and less as a romantic ideal. As an honors seminar, The Middle Landscape will reconsider the human relationship with the land. The colloquium will be grounded in classic writings on the subject, but we will read them critically and will seek to temper the important ideals of these authors and commentators with the actual experiences of people living and working on the land, proceeding in the hope that there just might be such a thing as a Middle Landscape.
HON 340 Colloquium in the Humanities: Mysticism East & West: Self, World , and Other
This course serves as a general introduction to eastern and western mysticism. We will examine the various forms of mysticism found in the Hindu, Buddhist, Muslim, Jewish and Christian traditions and compare their structure and message in light of a threefold relationship of self, world and other. In other words, how do the various forms of mysticism inform our understanding of ourselves as subjects, our relation to reality as a whole, and finally how do they establish a moral dimension in our relation to others and to an ultimate Other. The course will be seminar style and will proceed through open and candid discussion of original texts, films, students’ own research, and whenever possible guest speakers.
HON 340 Colloquium in the Humanities: Mythology
This course will study the gods and heroes of the Greeks and Romans as found in both classical and modern literature, sculpture, painting, music, and popular culture. Guest lectures on the mythology and legendary heroes of other cultures and traditions.
Hon 340 Colloquium in the Humanities: Peace & Conflict Studies
An exploration of historical and contemporary cases of peacemaking, non-violent resistance, conflict, and war; in particular, an examination of the Abolition Movement, Reconstruction, the Indian Wars, and World War I. The class will examine varied perspectives on peace and conflict through literary, biographical, and historical texts, as well as film, other media, and student research on historical, philosophical, ethical viewpoints on the issues and events. The goal is to encourage careful reading, critical questioning, and integration of multiple, often opposing notions about the issues surrounding peace and conflict. Some of the readings: F. Douglass, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass; Elisha Rhodes, All for the Union: A civil War Diary; W. Faulkner, The Unvanquished; D. Brown, Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee; Wilfred Owen et al. Poetry of World War I; J. Reed, Ten Days That Shook the World; E. Hemingway, The Sun Also Rises; J. Hersey, Hiroshima
HON 340 Colloquium in the Humanities: The End of The World As We Know It: Theories of Decline and Fall
Have you ever heard someone begin to criticize some aspect of modern life with the phrase, “When I was young,…” or “Back in the day, we…”? Does this have anything to do with the current fascination of social and political commentators with American “decline”? The purpose of this course is to examine the various theories of social, political, and moral decline that emerge in thinkers from antiquity to the present.
We will look at ancient poets and philosophers, such as Hesiod, Plato, and Vergil, who used the trope of a bygone Golden Age to bring into relief the less perfect present. Some of the questions we will address (and the writers who write about them) are: Why did the Roman Empire “fall,” and why does it matter? (Montesquieu, Gibbon) Does Christianity represent a moral advance or decline in relation to its polytheistic forebears? (Nietzsche) What role does human evolution play in theories of decline? (Dawkins, Vonnegut) And is Western civilization in decline (Spengler), or is it still in the political, economic, and cultural driver’s seat – for the time being (Ian Morris)?
HON 341 Colloquium in the Social Sciences: Achieving Justice: Traditions of Violence/Ways of Peace
The colloquium will explore historical and contemporary efforts to achieve a more just society, pursue peacemaking, and engage in various forms of resistance against forces of injustice, conflict, and war. The emphasis will be two-fold: on the one hand, we will examine the values, interests, and actions that create unjust social conditions and push human beings in the direction of conflict, even war; on the other, we will explore those forces that inform and encourage the pursuit of justice and sustain periods of peace. We will examine these perspectives through readings that range from the sociological and scientific to the literary, biographical, and historical. The course will integrate students’ own research on historical, philosophical, or ethical viewpoints on the issues, as well as film or other media. The goal is to encourage careful reading, critical questioning, and integration of multiple, often opposing notions about the issues surrounding social justice, peace, and conflict.
HON 341 Colloquium in the Social Sciences : Freedom, Community, and Social Control
Among the questions to be addressed through the colloquium’s readings, discussions, and assignments:
1) What is the nature of human freedom? What does it mean to be free (socially, politically, psychologically, sexually, and spiritually) as a human being? What is the relationship between human freedom and destiny?
2) How have our notions of freedom developed and changed in the United States? How are they linked to formal legal and political rights, especially as articulated in documents such as the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights? How is freedom most commonly understood and expressed in contemporary American society? How is it linked to prevailing notions of politics, individuality, and selfhood?
3) What is the relationship between freedom and social control? How is freedom shaped, enabled, and/or constrained by cultural beliefs, social structural factors (e.g., race, class, and gender), and major social institutions (e.g., the mass media, corporations, and the government)?
4) What is the relationship between freedom and our economic system? Does a “free market” economy constrain or enhance freedom? How does the structure of most workplaces affect the freedom of workers? How are new electronic technologies affecting the workplace and workers’ freedom?
5) What is the relationship between freedom and community? What types of communities are emerging in “postmodern” America and what impact do they have upon the freedoms of most citizens? What changes are taking place in the “civil society” of America? How will these changes influence or alter prevailing understandings of freedom and community?
HON 342 Colloquium in the Sciences: Evolution: Scientific and Cultural Perspectives
Understanding the ongoing controversy surrounding Darwin and his theories is the purpose of Evolution: Scientific and Cultural Perspectives. The course focuses on:
(1) Topics in the history and philosophy of science that help us understand how scientific knowledge is obtained, why it is considered valuable, and what qualities distinguish it from that which claims to be science but is not (pseudoscience).
(2) Some of the history and development of the theory of biological evolution. This will include a detailed examination of at least one scientific topic relevant to understanding evolution.
(3) Creationist critiques of evolution and proposed alternatives, such as Creation Science and Intelligent Design Theory.
(4) At least one court case, either through the writings of participants or the trial transcript.
A key theme of the course: Are there certain tools of thought, or ways of thinking, or types of questions, that can be applied to help non-experts such as ourselves separate valid from invalid claims even when dealing with highly technical issues? If there are such tools, the evolution versus creation controversy would be a ideal case for their application.
HON 342 Colloquium in the Sciences: Humans and Microorganisms: From Scourge to Tool
From the ancient and terrifying scourges of smallpox, the “black death”, to the current threat of AIDS; from the use of microorganisms to produce cheese, beer and wine, and sauerkraut; to the genetic manipulation of contemporary biotechnology, human life has been intimately intertwined with the microbial world. How have these interactions impacted humans? What are the adaptations made by humans as a result of microbes? How do (or have) different human populations reacted and responded to microbes? What are, or might be, the consequences of our trying to control and now manipulate microbial life? The purpose of this Honors Program course is to provide you with an opportunity to study the intersections of such academic disciplines as history, sociology, and literature, with science, and including media/material from Renaissance art and literature, the movies of Monty Python, and rock music.
HON 386 Imaginary Homelands
Reading and discussion of works from world literature, fiction and philosophical non-fiction, including Salman Rushdie (India:Haroun and the Sea of Stories), Mikhail Bulgakov (Russia: The Master and Margarita), Arundhati Roy (India:The God of Small Things), Patrick Chamoiseau (Caribbean: Solibo Magnificent), Scott Momaday (Native American: The Way to Rainy Mountain) Jeanette Winterson (England: The Passion), Marima Ba (Senegal: So Long a Letter), and others.